Tropico 3: Dictate Your Thoughts

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Here’s a story that got lost in our weekend of commenty madness. Reader John reminded us it was announced on Friday that Kalypso, a publisher of Sins of a Solar Empire and Gal Civ II, had acquired the rights to the Tropico series from Take 2. The consequences of this being the declaration that there will be a Tropico 3.

To be developed by Haemimont Games, the Bulgarian studio behind Glory of the Roman Empire and Imperivm – Great Battles Of Rome, they’re currently suggesting a Summer 2009 release.

Remember Tropico? It’s been a while. PopTop’s original came out in 2001 (and an expansion in 2002), with the sequel, Pirate Cove, in 2003. Then Take 2 let the franchise fall silent. It never took the world by storm, but the dictator-em-up took an interesting angle on city building management sims. Newly installed as the dictator of an obscure Caribbean island, you could choose to be benevolent, or more entertainingly cruel and malevolent to your people.

We know there are dedicated fans out there. How do you feel about Haemimont’s appointment to the project? Imperivm and Glory of the Roman Empire received an interesting mix of reviews. And what do you want from Tropico now, six years later? What does it need to do to be true to its roots, but be different enough from other city management games?


  1. Gladman says:

    This post has so few comments because no one has a clue what Tropico is.

  2. Chris Evans says:

    I think I played Imperium, and it didn’t impress me too much, it was decidedly average.

    Regardless I am pleased to see the Tropic franchise return, I remember playing the first game with joy, managing everything from going Yankee or Commie along with running the tourism industry and such like.

    I will hope to check it out when it comes out, it may end up crap, but I look forward to another Cuban esque island all to myself :D

  3. John Walker says:

    No, Gladman. It had so few comments because it had only been online for 10 minutes, late at night : )

  4. Philip says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Stardock the publisher of Sins and GalCiv? Never heard of Kalypso.

  5. jamuel scones says:

    Tropico 1 had a lot of character, and was interesting, but not a lot of fun until the expansion smoothed things out a bit. Tropico 2 was fun, and the pirate theme worked well, but it had too many buildings to juggle.

    If it has to be developed by some no-marks who put out the world’s blandest Roman citybuilder in a market saturated by them, then at least make it more like the first one. Sim Castro was always a good idea, and is worth revisiting.

    And I want to be able to see the little clockwork town being built, not plonk down buildings whole. Too many city builders focus on prettification as gameplay at the expense of OCD-satisfying infrastructure management.

  6. John Walker says:

    Correct Philip – I meant to type “a publisher” as they publish them in certain regions. Good spot.

  7. Gladman says:

    YES! My feebl(e) attempts to get someone with orange background text to reply to me has worked!


  8. Severian says:

    Tropico is easily one of my top 5 favorite games of all time. Like Sacrifice & Dungeon Keeper2, I still load this one up periodically and get obsessed all over again for a weekend. I loved the goal-based scenarios and the open sandbox. The island felt so much more real and alive than SimCity, or Caesar, or most any other god-sim. The closest thing I’ve played recently was the under-rated Children of the Nile, but Tropico tops even that one due to it’s fun-factor. It had a great sense of humor, and there were multiple paths to “victory,” like exporting high-quality cigars, or building a tourist paradise, or stealing money from your people and imprisoning dissenters (the latter strategy was actually quite challenging). I also really appreciated how every year, it’d spit out a great set of stats, reports, and graphs that really helped you keep track of what you needed to do to make life better for your people.

    Pirate’s Cove, in contrast, was absolutely horrendous. I didn’t see it as a sequel so much as a VERY lame attempt to jump on the growing pirate-fever bandwagon.

    Personally, I’d enjoy seeing a Tropico 3 – but I already feel like the original Tropico was a moment of brilliance that doesn’t need to be replicated. If they simply upgraded the graphics, added more buildings and pathways to money, I’d probably buy it and play it. It might be interesting to incorporate more international politics – in the original Tropico, the game tracked your relationship (on a simple level) with both the US and USSR, but it could be interesting to have a more complex political model in play, running alongside the satisfying economic engine.

  9. unclelou says:

    Good news, in principle.

    But please, please, *please* make it isometric. Not another citybuilder where you spend more time controlling the camera than building something, with a framerate that makes Crysis’ specs seem moderate as soon as you tilt the camera.

    Why so few developers understand this is beyond me.

  10. RichPowers says:

    Assuming the developer doesn’t churn out a mediocre city builder, I’d like to see a focus on diplomacy and international relations.

    My favorite aspect of Tropico was choosing whether or not to befriend the USA or USSR. At the end of the day, your island’s something of a pissant in world affairs, but you can annoy the living hell out of one superpower by allying with the other.

  11. Rosti says:

    I approve of this in general, although I didn’t gel with Tropico 2 – loved the setting and resources but variously found it too hard or easy. Still, it’s a title I’d like to see revisited myself so bully for me.

  12. Grandstone says:

    Never played the original Tropico, but I did obsess over its demo. I’m with RichPowers: I hope they beef up the international aspect of it (maybe acknowledge the rest of Latin America, guys?) and make it a little more like Hidden Agenda, which is this great little abandonware game with the same premise (but much different execution). Having to jail dudes for following my ministers’ orders and not mine…fuckin’ A.

    But I’d be happy if they just redid the first game, I guess.

  13. shon says:

    I had the opposite experience from Severian. Tropico one overwhelmed me and I just remember failing non-stop. Tropico 2 on the other hand was an over the top laid back game that took a different approach to most sims.

    Instead of producing things, you trained pirates and sent them out hoping they would bring back great stuff. You would then take their shares by owning all of the bars and brothels. It also had a balancing act where pirates demanded things that created anarchy but your slaves would revolt unless you had objects that created order.

    Anyhoo, it’s a game I still play about every six months so a new version is interesting. I just hope they keep the light fun attitude.

  14. chronnus says:

    I loved the first one, couldn’t really get into Tropico 2. The setting and atmosphere of the first one hooked me while its simple mechanics kept me playing.

    A 3rd one would be great but I doubt it’ll capture the magic of the the first Tropico.

  15. JD says:

    I still play the first two all the time, they’re great sim games, loads of fun. This is great news.

  16. Boogle says:

    Tropico held me down strong when I was 15 and brake an arm. I have high hopes.

  17. Dave says:

    Just get the pathfinding implemented (anyone remember the Tropico brain fungus that leaves your teamsters wandering aimlessly in circles?) and you’ve got citybuilder Gold. Please don’t dumb it down!

    Tropico was, is, and always will be awesome. I still take it for a spin every now and then.

  18. Jochen Scheisse says:

    An new Tropico! Please let it play in a banana republic again! AWESOME!

  19. McB says:

    I’m with Dave. I want Tropico with MASSIVELY enhanced mechanics. I don’t even care if they keep the same graphics. Just please let my teamsters be capable of, you know, walking from A to B.

  20. Jochen Scheisse says:

    Also, regarding your clever intor questions, I want the full range of dictatorial abilities. I want to forbid people to leave, station missiles on my island (my best one had USSR and USA missiles on it), I want to build projects, hell, I want to decide whether I am communist or libertarian and act accordingly!

  21. Jochen Scheisse says:

    They actually just need to turn out the first part with completely working mechanics and updated graphics, and I’m happy.

  22. Sid Clayman says:

    I loved Tropico when it first came out. It had such character! I remember it hitting my computer hard graphically at the time … I might give it a try again

    I never touched the expansion or sequel though.

  23. pirate0r says:

    The first game was really fun, the second one was good but lacked the feel of being a dictator and I missed being called “el presidente” as I had the leading political. Every year i go through a Tropico phase because it’s just too much fun imprisioning/executing political rivals and their supporters (the leader of the intellectual faction) when they run against me in the election.

  24. vinraith says:

    The first Tropico game (and its expansion) is still among my favorite city builders of all time. It never leaves my hard drive, and my wife adores it too. The second game was far too limited, shifted to an inferior theme, and just lacked the charm of the original. I have high hopes that. A new Tropico game will return to the concepts of the original. This is certainly something I’ll keep an eye on.

  25. Kanamit says:

    This just made my day. Tropico is my favorite game ever. It is the Deus Ex of city builders.

  26. Saflo says:

    There are a handful of how-could-you-leave-this-in-the-game problems with the sequel (finicky/homicidal pirates, no directing resources, having to kidnap “skilled” captives for almost everything) but it’s still a very enjoyable and unexpected spin on the original that gets a bad rap from the 20 people who played it. It’s also one of the more surprisingly reprehensible games around; I think it was the Gamespot reviewer who rightly said it could have been called Slavery Tycoon.

    Anyway, I’m excited, but I can’t imagine the prettiest next-gen graphics looking as great as the original claymation-y style.

  27. Erlam says:

    “Tropico held me down strong when I was 15 and brake an arm. I have high hopes.”

    Wait, Tropico stopped your arm? I don’t get it.

  28. lePooch says:

    I remember playing this as a jobless seventeen-year old during my high school holidays! Strangely enough, you could not get a single legit copy of this in Malaysia(where I used to live), and rumor was it was banned. Which made the prospect of my dictator banning books in the island all the more funny to me.

    There were some strange parallels between real-life Malaysia and Tropico. ‘Nuff said.

    With that in mind, I demand Haemimont update the game to reflect the challenges faced by today’s crack-pot dictators, so that Malaysians have a realistic sim of their political future at their fingertips!

  29. TychoCelchuuu says:

    Tropico was fantastic. Tropico 2, meh. Great setting but the mechanics were a little wonky. I have no experience with Haemimont so I’ll just sit back and see what happens.

  30. Skurmedel says:

    OMG OMG, give me. Tropico was great! Really one of the most overlooked games of the early 21st century.

  31. Heliocentric says:

    I found the game terrifying when i first played it. But back then dungeon keeper was the only management game i’d really played (picked it up for 99p like so many other lower profile games. ) i’d meant to go back but never did. Recently i’ve been putting serious hours into anno, a similar game. the ds port shamefully. Thankfully anno supports multiplayer, i’d love a passive aggressive tropico. With a micro mmo element in that your friends islands could influence factors in your game. But i’m an addict who wants multiplayer in everything.

  32. Catastrophe says:

    Settlers 1,2,3,4 > Tropico 2

    Only issue was buggy and after S4 they dropped the ball. Suddenly they make a 3D Settlers that had none of the Settlers mechanics, destroying the series :(.

  33. phil says:

    I lost all respect for Tropico 1 when after constructing the perfect banna republic; with rebels contained to handy little easily policed jungle, missile boats from the USSR and USA duly sent home and an international airport flooding my little towns with fat walleted tourists, the game bankrupted me over a pineapple tinning factory – Castro never had to deal with demand led economics.

    Also, the game called me a monster for ordering the political execution of a twelve year old, which is a fair point, though a little presumptous.

    So Tropico 3 – I’ll pass.

  34. ILR says:

    Well this is an… interesting and unexpected announcement. Tropico was probably one of those games struggling to break even at the time but might have grown its reputation enough along the years to warrant a new version.

    As stated above, what Tropico got right was the fun factor, especially compared to the sterile Simcity series or the bland ancient city builders (apart from the sleeper hit Children of the Nile which is rightfully considered at least worthwhile). You could pick your character from all those lovably insane Latin American icons (Papa Doc! Evita! Pinochet! Che! Lou Bega!?) and just staying in power was a feat in itself with those nasty elections popping up every few years or so. To ensure re-election you could try to persuade the citizens with 24-hour sumo wrestling TV channels or Papal Visits or even cancel the elections althogether, which leads into its own problems down the road (most likely a rebel uprising).

    The economy in Tropico was also well done in its depth and flexibility. The citizens weren’t just numbers in reports but had their own attributes and ambitions, and led their own lives on the island. A young, unskilled, but sharp girl might enroll in the recently-finished high school to get herself a job as a bureucrat in the nearby diplomatic ministry. A more unambitious (or unintelligent) individual might be more content to slug it out as a farmer’s wife in the coffee plantation up the hill. If there were no jobs requiring high school education available, or if the bureucrat’s wage didn’t differ that much from menial laborer’s one, almost no one would bother getting a high school diploma. You could also build the island to focus on tourism, heavy industry, or even aim to be a successful Pol Pot by going for a completely agrarian society. All this was reflected in the attitudes of the six main factions: The communists would hate El Presidente if the differences in citizens’ income got too severe and Intellectuals would hate him for the propaganda and military presence that was required to get the aforementioned Pol Pot society to stay in line, and so on.

    Tropico’s flaw was that it’s unbalanced in a manner that SimCities never were. Some leader traits were completely overpowered compared to others and some crops had no use whatsoever. Some disasters had an insanely hard impact, etc. All this boils down to a genuinely good game that overcomes its shortcomings with creativity, character and quirkiness. And by being just about the only caribbean cold war game.

    Assigning the task of rehauling such a franchise to a German company known for an assembly line of apparently boilerplate-ish city builders doesn’t strike me as particularly inspired. However, I’m definitely keeping my eyes open for this project.

  35. clovus says:

    I really enjoyed Tropico but always felt it was flawed; ILR just explained those flaws well.

    For some reason, the thing that I really loved was that I could see the family tree of the citizens. I found it extremely amusing that the son of some poor farmers got a better job after going to high school and that his son graduated from the Universidad and now runs the power plant. Oh, and he hates me, so I execute him and now his whole family hates me too! What fun!

    Just like COTN, the idea of a city builder modeling the life of every citizen is really cool. Unfortunately neither game seems to get this have this work out perfectly.

  36. Twonk says:

    I hope it’s more Tropico than Tropico 2. Not that I have anything against pirates. In fact I love them. But still. They got a liiiittle too focused on them, and dropped the ball. It should have been all of Tropico + pirates, not a pirate themed game based on the Tropico engine/style. If that makes sense.

    AND they better not lower the standard of music. GOD the music in Tropico/2… fantastisch! I come buckets just thinking of it.

    This’ll probably be the worst one yet though. ;____;

  37. Lucas says:

    Tropico remains my favorite strategy building and management sim by far, though Startopia is also an underrated gem and Children of the Nile is very good too. 1701 A.D. is recommended for those who want something more on the empire + trading sim side.

    The genius gameplay of Phil Steinmeyer, outstanding soundtrack, and highly coherent theme really made this game fly.

    Good luck to the new team! This is an immense job to measure up against. Tropico 2 definitely couldn’t do it.

  38. Fumarole says:

    Tropico has the best game soundtrack. I still play the original on occasion to this day, even though I never got into the second one too much. Here’s to hoping the third installation resembles the former more than the latter.

  39. Grandstone says:

    I also like how the theme nicely explains why your view can’t go past a certain point–you’re on a fucking island!

  40. Carra says:

    Was gonna mention the soundtrack. Tropico had a great soundtrack, keep it that way :)

  41. Nurdbot says:

    Aaaah, Tropico. I remember simply watching my citizens farm and wheel said resources to those factories to be then wheeled off and shipped off for that beloved exporting budget.

    I hope they remake the original.

  42. Kommissar Nicko says:

    Also on the political end, I’d like to see more variety. While the game let you give a nod toward socialism or communism, they never really let you implement the ideal–from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs. Although it appeared as though the state owned everything whether you liked it or not. It’d be nice to do something different, like libertarianism or theocracy (although in a libertarian society, wouldn’t you just theoretically push play and all the roads/schools/houses/jobs just propagate themselves?).

  43. Kong says:

    Good news. I wish Tropico 3 features islands the size of that in Armed Aussault and combat like Armed Aussault. A 3d engine with a good overview camera. The rest of the original game mechanics should not be changed in any way in order to create a game that would become one of the best of the decade.
    ‚ÄěPatria o muerte compadres!”

  44. Tropican American says:

    I loved the first Tropico back in 2001 and for me it’s had tremendous replay value, through the years, which is not true for any other PC game I’ve played. I would be happy to have the exact same game with updated graphics and more buildings. Part of what I loved about Tropico was deciding what sort of economy I could have, especially placing farms and deciding which of my resources I’d use to build a thriving economy. The absence of this is why I wasn’t taken with Tropico 2 and the whole pirate thing.

  45. Castro says:

    Tropico 3 WILL be based on the original Tropico game, being a bananna republic-style island game. I am greatly looking foward to this game and have been hoping for years that someone would take up the Tropico franchise again. Best of luck to the game!

  46. Coconut Kid says:

    What a fantastic series of comments on a game — which all indicate that it is like the old “ink blot” test.

    The publishers and developers have committed that T3 is based on the original and has nothing to do with pirates. You all should drop by the hard-core hangout, “Cafe Tropico”.

    It should be emphasized that the original Tropico was never a “city builder”. It had too much to do with the population. The hard-corps is afraid that in spite of what they say, the developers will lose track of the political intrigue and fall-back on beautiful graphics & formulaic building placement.

    It was inspired by “Hidden Agenda” and the handling of the “units/people” was and is unique in game play. The path-finding did have “looping” problems, but most of them were created by the players themselves mistaking robots for real people.

  47. Soap says:

    Let me begin by saying that I am ecstatic at the announcement of a new game in this series.
    I must admit that I have not played the original Tropico but I am a big fan of Tropico 2. Although, I would like to play the original.

    I think I have a solid and potentially fun resolution to all of the great comments above.

    Why not combine the best of both games? 2 islands.

    A sort of Tropico time warp. You could pit El Presidente against the Pirate King. This would accommodate the fans of the multi-player experience and also fans of both games.
    The pirates could attack the tourist cruise ships going to El Presidente’s island and also try to take captives and plunder there. Likewise, El Presidente could try to gain control of the Pirate King’s island or steal his corn or tobacco or recruit tourists, etc.
    I think this scenario could also satisfy those looking for more government involvement. Forget the U.S. and U.S.S.R. Make it Castro against Henry Morgan or something to that effect. Bring in the third party countries that the pirates deal with, such as Spain or England. (Not all tourists are from the states).

    Hell, why would they even need to be old pirates? We still have pirates today. Make the pirate island a modern day Port Royale where they hideout. Throw in some illegal arms trade or drug smuggling or offshore money shelters, etc.

    Another possibility is uninhabited islands that have rich soil and mineral wealth to enhance their own islands. Conquer these islands for your own gain. Place hidden treasure on some of them that the conqueror keeps as his own.

    I realize that some of this may be to extensive for one game, but I am just throwing it out there for some feedback.

    Whatever you do Haemimont, please make it Mac compatible.

  48. Sartoris says:

    Sorry for the gravedigging, but I just remembered Tropico 3 is supposed to come out sometime during the summer, which is drawing near. God I can’t wait. Even if it turns out it sucks, I’m too much of a fanboy not to like its every flawed, lovely detail.

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